Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Brewing Arctic Vortex Black Saison

Last Friday, I brewed a Black Saison. Why? Mostly because I can. I've never brewed a saison before. You might argue that I still have not brewed one just based on the color. The BJCP Style Guidelines say that a saison is "pale orange but may be golden or amber in color" (5-14 SRM). Mine is really dark brown to black, around 24 SRM if Beer Smith calculated my color correctly. It certainly does not look like a typical saison.

But, I am hoping it will finish out dry with the spicy, farmhouse character you would expect in a saison with lots of Saaz hop character. I expect despite its color it will smell and taste like a saison. I guess we will see.

I am calling the beer Arctic Vortex Winter Saison, and you can view the recipe by following this link.

I actually got the Saaz hops quite awhile ago knowing I would use them for a "Winter Saison". And, I bought the grains from my usual LHBS about a week (a little more than a week actually) before I brewed it. I was hoping to get it brewed the weekend before last, but the Homebrew Shop did not have the yeast I wanted.

I've heard that most Saison Yeasts are notoriously finicky, and difficult to work with. Quite often they will quit fermentation well before you would want.  But, I've also heard that Wyeast's French Saison (WY 3711) is a work-horse that really finishes out nicely. Not wanting to risk a stuck fermentation, I really wanted to get the 3711.

When my regular LHBS didn't have it, I figured one of the other 3 or 4 home-brew shops would surely have some. Well, I was wrong. The Brew Hut said they would have some the next week, so I decided to push off my brew day.

On Friday morning, I still did not have the yeast, but the guys at the shop promised they would give me a call. My family was going away for the weekend (part of the reason I had a day off from work), so if I was going to brew, it had to be Friday. I decided to start my brew day and if I didn't get the yeast call before pitching time, I'd pitch some other yeast making it some other style of beer.

The gnomes and I started out on the patio, but it was windy enough that we decided to move the brew day into the garage for the boil to protect the flame from wind gusts. This ended up being a great decision as the wind didn't get any tamer through-out the day.

The mash went fine. Initially, the mash was at 150. As saisons are supposed to end very dry, I added some cold water to bring that temperature down a few degrees, and let the mash sit for a couple of hours. By the end of the mash, the temperature was around 145, which is about what I wanted for this beer.

I used a first-wort addition of 1 ounce of Saaz hops instead of a traditional bittering addition. The pre-boil gravity was right where I wanted it.

The boil went as planned.

I got everything cooled down and racked the wort into the carboy.

But I still did not have the yeast.

I watched the USA hockey team lose to Canada. I ate lunch. Played with the Beer Model.

Minutes away from deciding to pitch some English Ale yeast I had harvested from Gnasty the Gnome ESB, I got a call from Mark, letting me know that my yeast had come in. I drove to the shop, grabbed the yeast, smacked the pack, and headed home to pitch at about 65 degrees.

Then, we packed up the mini-van and picked up the kids to head to Winter Park for the weekend. We had a blast, by the way, thanks for asking.

We got back Sunday to a active fermentation. The fermentation is still going strong today and there is still quite a bit a kraussen. It doesn't appear that it will be done anytime soon, but who knows, it may.

I am really curious to see how this turns out.

If you are also curious, stay tuned on this blog, on SheppyBrew's Facebook Page or Twitter or somehow.

Go Blackhawks!

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